The WSCL Blog

News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Romantic Sensibility - Just Opened - May 29, 2015

Today we have a focus on Richard Strauss and Sergei Rachmaninov, but we also explore an inventive new CD of JSBach's works played on mandolin and mandocello, and tenor Julian Pregardien chimes in.

Concertos 2 & 3
Stewart Goodyear, piano
Czech National Symphony
Heiko Mathias Forster, cond.
ISBN# 0 34062 30047 1
Steinway & Sons website
Canadian pianist Goodyear has been hailed as "a phenomenon who deserves wide attention" (Los Angeles Times) and adds these 2 well-loved concertos to his previous recordings of Tchaikovsky and Grieg.   This particular performance  said to uncover the works from years of standard performance practice and a recording that highlight's Rachmaninov's use of orchestral coloring.  This CD gives us two basic, foundational pieces for any music library, with a rising young performer.

Strauss: Don Juan
Eiji Oue, cond.
ISBN# 0 30911 19072 9
CD available on this webpage
This CD marks Minnesota Orchestra's first release of Richard Strauss's Don Juan, and also features Ravel's "Alborada del Gracioso", Sibelius' "Finlandia" and Liadov's "Baba Yaga."   With excerpts from many popular orchestral standards, one song from Mahler's "Songs of the Earth" and Taylor's "Looking Glass Insects" it is a varied an enjoyable program.

Mike Marshall, mandocello
Caterina Lichtenberg, mandolin
ISBN# 8 23421 10942 4
Lichtenberg's website
Marshall's website
Grammy nominated cross-over musician Mike Marshall and multiple award-winning guitar/mandolinist Lichtenberg join forces in this CD to present Bach's 2 part inventions on mandolin and mandocello.  The 1700s was the first golden age of the mandolin, so this idea has historic veracity and transports us back to the way Bach's music may have been played in his day outside the church walls.  Lichtenberg is the only Professor of classical mandolin currently in the world - at the Cologne, Germany music Conservatory.  These inventions have been called "intense musical landscapes" and this pairing gives us a new perspective on these well known seminal works.

Ken Watson, oboe & arranger
Double Reed Quartet
ISBN# 7 00261 41921 3
Watson's website for purchasing info. & links
My Delight of the Week!  Ken Watson's biography is worth reading for it's depth and complexity... just fascinating.   Having been a member of "The President's Own" (and several of the other musicians on this CD either were or are currently part of that group) he decided to switch from musician to active duty... and has since worked in network security.  Such is the life of a musician!   Now able to focus more fully on music, he is particularly devoted to fostering knowledge and appreciation for double reed instruments.  With the lyricism of Mendelssohn, the appeal of Gershwin, and the lush melodies of Still, I'd say this is a great start! 

An Die Gelibte
with Christoph Schnackertz, piano
ISBN# 4 260183 51012 3
Son of renowned lyric tenor Christoph Pregardien, Julian has been called a "major discovery" and is performing internationally in opera, concerts, and - as here - performing lied.  In what he calls his "own very personal circle of songs" he sings works of Beethoven, von Weber, Richard Strauss and Wolf.

Join us again next Friday for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, May 22, 2015

May 22, 2015 - Just Opened - Shakespearean Dramatics

Today our musical selections explore Baroque music, the drama of operatic melodies, and Temestuous Shakespearean passion ... music from the Baroque and Romantic eras. 

Shakespeare's TEMPEST
Sullivan & Sibelius
Michael Stern, cond.
Kansas City Symphony
ISBN# 0 30911 11152 6
Best known for his work with Gilbert, Arthur Sullivan wrote many things on his own, but they are greatly overshadowed by his successful partnership.  His settings of Shakespeare songs are often included in anthologies, and here is his rarely heard music for The Tempest.  For comparison, we also have Sibelius's Suites for performances of the Tempest as well.  "Coupling these two works... was a brilliant idea--a "concept" album that really makes good musical sense. Happily...the performances are as smart, atmospheric, and vibrant as the music itself...and they're stunningly recorded..." --David Hurwitz, Classics Today

Eugenia Moliner, flute
Denis Azabagic, guitar
ISBN# 0 90404 94482 6
My Delight of the Week.  In the Romantic era, there was a steady market of arrangements of opera melodies into medlies, themes and variations, and fantasies.  Their critical raves are numberous, in countless major music magazines... see their website to see the flow of rave reviews.  The Cavatina Duo brings us a full serving of these bon bons and favorites, and the combination of quitar and flute have such easy relate-ability that listeners of many genres will enjoy this CD.

(Not the CD cover, this Photo shows Trio Solisti, pianist Neiman and violinist Bachmann are featured on today's CD.  We were unable to get a picture of today's CD cover.)
Faure & Saint Saens
ISBN# 6 87077 95293 9
Individually and together, the musicians on this CD have achieved international recognition and high critical acclaim.

Jacques Champion de Chambonnieres
Karen Flint, harpsichord
2 CD Set
ISBN# 8 88295 26087 9
Brandywine Baroque & Plectra Home Page
Highly esteemed harpsichordist Karen Flint continues to add to her exploration of great French keyboard composers.

Harry Christophers & The Sixteen
CORO 16128
ISBN# 8 28021 61282 4
Exquisite choral works performed beautifully have long been a part of our musical selections on WSCL.  Harry Christophers and The Sixteen have been audience favorties for years.  This is their most recent release of works from Spain in the 1500s.

Join us again next week for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

Monday, May 18, 2015

Just Opened - May 15, 2015 - Timeless Romanticism

Our Just Opened mix today includes a major symphony dedicated to the Romantic era, trios from Romantic era composers, late Romantic era cello works on the border of modernism, and timeless traditional folk works from the American South for piano, and a modern choral composer's work with a "timeless" sound intention.

Symphony No. 4 "Romantic"
Manfred Honeck, Dir.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orch.
ISBN# 0 30911 27132 9
We shared this marvelous new performance of this melodic full symphony.

Greg McCallum, piano
McCallum's Official Website
MSR 1092
ISBN# 6 81585 10922 9
Traditional Southern songs and melodies in beautiful piano transcriptions.

Kim Cook, violoncello
More info on Kim Cook
MSR 1512
ISBN# 6 81585 15122 8
Lalo is best known for his "Symphony Espagnole" - basically a violin concerto.  Here we have a beautiful presentation of his rarely heard cello concerto, set alongside Saint Saens concreto and a moving elegy by Faure.

Romantic Trios for Oboe, Viola and Piano
Ensemble Schumann
Ensemble's Official Website
MSR 1423
ISBN# 6 81585 14232 5
My Delight of the Week.  Romantic era trios with this unusual combination of instruments make this accessible and unique.
Michael John Trotta, composer
Trotta's Official Website
HRCD 1116
ISBN# 8 45121 07985 2
New Choral works by a modern composer.   Very much in the meditative vein, if you enjoy the works of John Rutter and Eric Whittaker, this are an easy pick for your CD collection.

Thank you for joining us as we open up new releases and releases new to us each Friday on "Just Opened."
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, May 8, 2015

Just Opened - May 8th Bartok, Banjos, Beethoven & More

Today we take a look at the music of Bartok from Various perspectives, orchestral, chamber, and in a turn-about return to his folk roots, a rag tag collection of his works re-interpreted on banjo and folk band.  As always, we have an accomplished solo piano release, and another of a soprano who has worked closely with new composer Chris Broom focusing on his works in conjunction with great modern Italian film composers.

The Music of Bela Bartok
Jake Schepps, Banjo (with band)
ISBN# 7 00261 32636 8
Website for Schepps
I believe that we are living through the construction and growth of a new musical genre, which I think is best called "Concert Folk."   Traditional folk instruments played with skill and seriousness, in works that attempt to display both the virtuosity of the performers and the ability of the instrument to handle "legitimate" repertoire.  Schepps (taking his cue from Bela Fleck) is conscientiously working this vein.  In a very smart "about face," he takes the music of Bela Bartok back to it's roots in folk music, giving it back to trational folk instruments and arrangements.  The essential element of the discussion becomes esoteric: is folk music played on on folk instruments with a distinctly folk sound suddenly now NOT folk music, but "classical"?   I personally think it is a divide that is inseparable, for the same reason that historic traditional world music is not "classical."  It can be virtuosic, it can be great artistry, but the instrumentation itself defines it as something separate.  "Classical" and "folk" music have evolved at least in part by the development of instruments that have a particular sound, and that specific sound is an essential element of the musical style.  I think it is time we seriously reconsider our class structure of some music as good and other music as "lesser" - virtuosos exists in all genres - but being equal arts still does not make them the same thing.  Folk music has influenced great composers, but their works are distinct in form, structure and instrumentation.  You can take the banjo out of the country-folk bar, but can you take the country-folk bar out of the banjo?  Taking the music back to folk instruments and musical interpretation - in my opinion - makes it what it was in the first place, still of historic importance, still musically appealing, but no longer "classical" concert music.  Schepp's CDs could be an interesting introduction to the works of Bela Bartok for audiences who would never enter a traditional concert hall.

Michael Stern, cond.
Kansas City Symphony
ISBN# 0 30911 11322 3
Official website of Kansas City Symphony
My Delight of the Week!  Take 3 composers known for work that can be challenging and dissonant.  Take one of the most melodic and accessible works by each composer, put them in one program, and you have a program that is smart, enjoyable, and that makes people think, and remember that each of these composers can be accessible, and is worth getting to know, worth exploring.   In some sense, every music performer, every orchestra has to have music education in mind while programming, because "classical" music is becoming increasingly walled-off and marginalized.  Programs like this are a great re-introduction to composers who can often feel intimidating and rarified even to many concert goers.  This kind of programming is what shows a Symphony (and Music Director) to be thoughtful and educational in their programming, it "bumps up the game." 

Ras Vitkauskaite, piano
ISBN# 7 62738 01242 6
Official Website for Reflections
Award winning Lithuanian pianist Vitkauskaite joins our playlists again.  We have recently added two of her CD collaborations with clarinetist Jonathan Cohler, here we have her solo debut CD, which was the Cover Feature CD of Fanfare Magazine last December.  They "enthusiastically recommended" this CD.  American Record Guide hailed her for "subtle musicianship and exceptional skill" in what others called an" intelligently programmed and beautifully realized recorded debut."  The program balances better known works and composers with Liebermann's surprisingly melodic (and conceptually mesmerizing) "Gargoyles."  Thoughtful, entertaining and accessible.

Sonatas for Violin & Piano
Jade Duo: Shuai Shi, violin, and
Zhen Chen, piano
MSR 1510
ISBN# 6 81585 15102 0
Website and Info. for The Jade Duo
Individually accomplished and regarded instrumentalists, Shi & Chen formed "Jade Duo" in 2012  under the tutelage of Dr.Heasook Rhee, Pinchas Zukerman and Peter Winograd. The Jade Duo won the first prize in the 2013 Artur Balsam Competition for Duos in New York and the second prize of the 2013 J.C.Arriaga Chamber Music Competition in Stamford, Connecticut.  This is their first CD, on which their recording of the Faure has been called better than the version by Joshua Bell with Jean-Yves Thibaudet!  Clearly these artists are worth getting to know, and remembering.

Remembering Heaven
Official Webstie of Paonessa
Paonessa's recital CD finds her in that "cusp of fame" position which is always exciting and fascinating.  She is sceduled to sing the role of "Annina" in La Traviata this year in Oshawa Opera's production, is involved in CBC's Searchlight talent competition (for Canadian talent).  Here she has paired with modern composer Chris Broom to sing many of his arias, sung along with memorable and well-loved works of film composers Rota and Morricone.  Her website is remarkably free of biographical information, throwing the focus entirely on this new release.

Join us next week for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, May 1, 2015

Just Opened - May 1st, 2015

From the familiar, beloved orchestral works of Bizet to challenging new orchestral works by modern Canadian composers,  from new works for quitar quartet and new eastern themed works for solo piano, to well known piano repertoire of Liszt and Beethoven, and a major choral work by Buxtehude - we're covering all the musical bases today in new releases, and releases new to us - Just Opened!

Martin West, Cond.
San Francisco Ballet Orchestra
San Francisco Ballet website
Reference Recordings 131
ISBN # 0 30911 11312 4
Gift-Giver's Delight!  West conducts a welcome bouquet of orchestra works by Bizet in this melodic, accessible CD.  In a  recording that has been hailed for the separation of sound, balance, and depth, and a performance lauded as the highest quality, we have a new, full orchestration of the delightful work originally composed for piano 4 hands "Jeux D'Enfants (Children's Games)", and a first recording of Bizet's more adventuresome "Variations Chromatique."  West filled the shoes of a much loved and admired conductor and has maintained the expressive qualities of this orchestra with whimsy and lightness for which it has been so admired, and for which these pieces are a great showpiece.  This CD is bound to be an unusual and very welcome addition to any collection.

Nadina Mackie Jackson, bassoon
Guy Few, trumpet
Eric Paetkau, conductor
Jackson's Official Website
Paetkau's Official Website
MSR 1480
ISBN# 6 81585 14802 0
New works for orchestra and chamber groups by Canadian composers Michael Occhipinti, Glenn Buhr and Mathieu Lussier.  Lussier is all ready well known to our audiences through other CD works with Nadina Mackie Jackson and Guy Few, and we featured his works from this CD today.   No need to be afraid of these new, modern works - one or two of the works here are a challenge, but brief, and most are pleasantly surprising and highly listenable.

Susan Chan, piano
Chan's Official Website
MSR 1245
ISBN# 6 81585 12452 9
Chan is known for her committment to the works of female composers, as well as the kind of juxtaposition and interplay of Eastern and western works that is found on this CD, and very compelling.  She regularly gives masterclasses and performs regularly around the world.  She opens the program with two Eastern (or Eastern inspired) works.  Louie's "Scenes from a Jade Garden" are a display of force and ingenuity, and today we heard the movement "Warrior" before a Sonata of Beethoven.  I think this pairing from the CD shows off both works well, esp. as Beethoven is known for his use of forceful expression of the percussion aspect of the piano.

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
LAGQ's Official Website
LAGQ 0315
ISBN# 6 16892 27644 9
New Composers provide new takes on traditional works, and new works inspired by traditional works, for the beloved Los Angeles Quitar Quartet, in this aptly named "New Renaissance."  This particular CD revisits the traditional ground of renaissance music with the cross-over approach of new techniques and improvisational additions.  This is the "edge" of new music that is completely accessible to a variety of music listeners, due in part to the delicious blend of the always popular guitars that form this group, as well as their musical selections and sterling musicianship.

Membra Jesu Nostri
Duke Vespers Ensemble
Brian Schmidt, conductor
More info on the Ensemble
Schmidt's Official Website
MSR 1530
ISBN# 6 81585 15302 4
My Delight of the Week!  Buxtehude's major work of "The Passion" is the sole focus and offering of this CD, "The most holy limbs of our suffering Jesus"  a series of 7 Cantatas. Each cantata movement of this work is dedicated to a particular "limb" of the body of Christ.  The latin text is said to have come from a Medieval Hymn and the old Testament.  This is a lovely performance combining period instruments and a finely tuned and balanced vocal ensemble with exquisite restraint.

Thanks again to our S.U. practicum Taylor Goebel for pulling together the pictures, links and info. on today's new releases.   Join us again next Friday for more new releases, Just Opened!
Kara Dahl Russell

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Just Opened - April 24, 2015 - Strong Music by Strong Women

After pulling together today's program, I realized the unifying feature of today's Just Opened seems to be women in leadership, in music that is at least partially confrontational.  Strong music by Strong women.

Our Just Opened program today strongly features women, up front, and in leadership positions of several groups.   From the established virtuoso pianist, Anne-Marie McDermott, internationally renowned violinist and leader/founder of La Pieta, Angele Dubeau, to long term orchestral harpist Gretchen Van Hoesen, and a "brassy" new breakout artist, trumpeter Mary Elizabeth Bowden.

Mary Elizabeth Bowden, trumpet
Bowden's Official Website
Summit DCD 655
ISBN# 0 99402 65592 5
Today's guest host for Just Opened, Tom Hehman, will be able to wax poetic about the skills of trumpeter Bowden.   This CD is a mixed group of new works for trumpet and...  (mostly piano, but a few trios).  As with many current "recital CDs"  many the works are frankly difficult to listen to, challenging in the sense of not only modern concert music, but - as we have a trumpet in the forefront - the kind of Dizzy Gillespe inspired jazz improvization that can feel... interminable.  If you're a fan of that, you'll find even the most challenging works here a piece of cake.  In contrast, there are the works by composer Joseph Turrin, which  are melodic and highly accessible, what some would call "modern classical."  We closed the program today with a fascinating new work called "Totem Voices" in which each movement represents one of the animal/spirits on a totem pole, it is the best of both worlds, exploratory, intellectually engaging, and tuneful.

Noah Bendix-Balgley, violin
Gretchen Van Hoesen, harp
Anne Martindale Williams, cello
Bendix-Balgley's Official Website
More info on Van Hoesen
More info on Williams
ISBN# 7 00261 40684 8
As with a piano trio, where the piano is both the foundation and often the leader of the trio, this position is often fullfilled by the upright "keyboard" instrument, the harp.  On this CD, this parallel is probably most obvious in the opening Haydn work, where the harps plays the part that is most often heard played on piano.  The major work on this CD is Henriette Renie's Symphonic Trio which is a major chamber work by any standard.  The program on this CD adds a splash of color with Reynaldo Hahn's art song "A Chloris" with the violin taking the vocal line, and closes with the spice of a closing piece by Carlos Gardel.

Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann
Alexander Beridze, piano
Beridze's Official Website
NY Classics
ISBN# 8 88295 19046 6
Georgian pianist Beridze has performed at Carnegie Hall, and been hailed as an "exceptional artist" by American Record Guide, and won the 2009 Cincinnati World Piano Competition.  He has a touring schedule, and regular recital program "packages."  This CD represents the majority of his recital program No. 1, and gives an opportunity to those of us who can not travel around to the great halls of the world to hear his polished performances of these accessible and beloved great piano showpieces.

Angele Dubeau, violin
La Pieta
Dubeau's Official Website
More info on La Pieta
Analekta 2 8738
ISBN# 7 74204 87382 0
Angele Dubeau and her (all female chamber ensemble) La Pieta have an impressive body of recordings, from very traditional to a very focused attention to contemporary works and composers.  Notably, a few years ago, they released a CD of recordings of "game music" arranged for chamber orchestra - highlighting the rich beauty and evocative nature of much of this game music.  Einaudi's has composed music for many modern films, with a sound world that is both "classically trained" and infused with a sense of pop, rock, and modern musical forms.  Film music, especially that of today, has a "waiting" quality.  That is, of course, essential to music for film... it has to fill an emotional mood with a certain consistency to provide an emotional background, and then POP or FIZZ or swing to an extreme emotional change in connection with the screen image and action.  Unlike the lush film scores of the 1940s, for the most part today, this means music that is quiet and repetitive or tensely brooding.  Being a full CD of the works of one composer gives the program a continuity that will be boring for some, and for others, uniquely fullfilling.

Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
with Scott Yoo conducting
Odense Symphony Orchestra
McDermott's Official Website
BRIDGE 9438 - 2CD set
ISBN# 0 90404 94382 9
My Delight of the Week! & Gift Giver's Delight!  Established, critically acclaimed, internationally recognized and classically oriented could all be said of McDermott.   While she has performed & recorded the works of Prokofiev and Scriabin, she seems to have a particular affinity and affection for the Classical era.  To her previous recordings of Mozart she now adds a 2 CD set of Haydn sonatas, each CD culminating in one of his Piano Concertos.  This CD provides so much of what many classical listeners yearn for.   Mature, literate, polished performances of not only great solo piano repertoire, but the increasingly difficult to find orchestral releases of traditional Classical era works.  McDermott performs over 100 concerts a year around the world, and has been a working respected professional for over 25 years.  A marvelous addition to any concert library.

Thanks again to our S.U. practicum, Taylor Goebel, for pulling together the pics, links, and basic info. on today's CDs.   Join us again next week as we open up new releases, and releases new to our library, on Just Opened, each Friday from 1PM to 4PM on WSCL 89.5FM.
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, April 17, 2015

Just Opened - April 17th, 2015 - Composer Compendium

Vivaldi, Beethoven, Hill and Sor.   You may not know every name, but these composers today are essentially connected to the timeline of great composers!

Avi Avital, mandolin
Avital's Official Website
B0022627 02
ISBN# 0 28947 94017 3
My Delight of the Week!  Many "classical music" listeners remain on the fence regarding the place of the mandolin in serious concert music, but Avi Avital, through his combination of charisma, technical facility, and informed musical selections reminds us of the historic importance of the mandolin.  In previous releases, his transcriptions of Bach works reminded us of Bach's use of the lute,  and here we have it showcased as one of Vivaldi's favored instruments. 

Matt Haimovitz, cello
Christopher O'Riley, piano
2 CD set
Haimovitz's Official Website
O'Riley's Official Website
PTC 5186 475
ISBN# 8 27949 04756 5
Complete Sonatas and Variations for Pianoforte and Violoncello recorded on period instruments.  Two established performers have joined forces in this labor of love to perform works by one of the world's best loved Composers of all time.  The range of Beethoven's work for cello and piano can be viewed as a microcosm of his compositional output, as they grew from Classical to pushing the established norms.  The inclusion of the "lesser" but very accessible themes and variations helps give context to Beethoven's works for this instrumental combination and make it easy classical listening.

Symphony No. 4
Peter Bay, conductor
More info on Bay
ISBN# 0 90404 94432 1
His name is now mostly forgotten, but he taught some of the biggest names in American Music: Virgil Thompson, Elliott Carter, Roger Sessions, Walter Piston, Randall Thompson and Leonard Bernstein.  Hill studied in Paris with Carles Marie Widor, but along with many other composers of his day, Arthur Foote, Leo Sowerby, his works are largely passed over - as often happens with people at the end of a musical era.  When they are rediscovered, however, it means that they are easy on the ear, as you will find with this collection of works for piano and orchestra by Hill.

The Guitar Works of Fernando Sor
Jeff Dwarshuis, guitar
Dwarshuis's Official Website
CL 40014U
ISBN# 8 88295 19345 0
Gift-Giver's Delight!  Guitar music is always one of the easiest ways to introduce people to "classical" music.  In this case, it IS actually guitar music from the Classical era.  Sor's works were/are foundational for the guitar's acceptance as a "legitimate" instrument.  When Andre Segovia brought Sor's work back into the mainstream, we got to appreciate Sor's unique gift for embuing even pedogogical etudes with rich melodic content.   Dwarshius generously donated several of his CDs to be thank you gifts for our listeners who supported us during our drive.  His playing is clean and precise with musicality and warmth.   This Cd is an easy way to introduce friends and family to classical music and help them realize that there is a world of music to become familiar with, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Thanks again to our S.U. practicum Taylor Goebel for her help pulling together the web links, pictures and info. to help you find your favorite of today's new releases.  Join us again next week for more new CDs, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell


The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Public Radio Delmarva, its staff, members, underwriters, Salisbury University, or the Salisbury University Foundation. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official.